The New York Red Bulls are set to take on the Seattle Sounders in a match with huge Supporters’ Shield implications, and they likely will do so without two of their most important starters.
Thierry Henry and Jámison Olave are unlikely to travel with the Red Bulls for their Sunday night match against the Sounders due to the turf at CenturyLink Field (9 pm ET, ESPN). Both Henry and Olave have refrained from playing on turf for much of this year in an attempt to avoid serious injury, and this clash of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the Shield standings looks set to be no different.
For Henry, the wear and tear of playing on turf negatively impacts his Achilles tendon, and that's why Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke is having a hard time envisioning his captain playing on Sunday.
“I haven’t had a direct conversation with him about it yet, but going by history it would appear that he wouldn’t be available,” Petke told reporters via a conference call on Tuesday afternoon. “I know it’s very easy for supporters, even media, to say, ‘It’s a huge game.’ But you have to go with the doctors and talk with the doctors.
“It’s not something that he just doesn’t like turf. He has a chronic issue with his Achilles, and if I’m being told by the doctors that it could be damaged, then it’s a situation that are you going to sacrifice or take that risk for one game, no matter what the significance is, when there’s still three more left to play in the regular season and hopefully the playoffs?”
The magnitude of the game is hard to deny, especially given New York’s empty trophy case and the possibility of a first major piece of hardware in sight. Petke isn’t running from that reality.
“It is a big game but the health of him as one of our key players is extremely important,” the coach explained. “I wouldn’t 100 percent rule him out, but going by history I wouldn’t hold out a ton of hope that he will be playing on turf this weekend.”
Olave is in a similar situation. The veteran center back has had a history of knee issues and does not respond well to playing on turf, so Petke is forced into a big decision on that end of the field as well.
“Once you hear from doctors that you trust that are part of the organization and the medical staff that as far as turf goes with the way Olave’s knee is, and his knee has been great this year, but it could be [a situation where] he could go through all 90 minutes or it could be one bad turn on the turf and you lose him for the season,” said Petke.
“Yes, it’s an important game, but is it important enough to risk our key defender for the rest of the year? I don’t think so. Both of those guys are huge question marks and I’ll probably lean more towards no they will not be going.”
Some sections of the Red Bulls’ fanbase may not take too kindly to Petke’s words, but the first-year head coach made sure to point out that he is ultimately not the only one to decide whether a player suits up or not.
- For complete coverage, go to NewYorkRedBulls.com
Now if Sunday’s match was a do-or-die playoff game or the MLS Cup final, things would probably be a little different.
“If I had to guess if it was the MLS Cup on turf or a key playoff game on turf, I think the likelihood would be a bit more in their minds to say, ‘You know what? The hell with it. I’m going to risk it because it’s significant,’” said Petke. “But I’m not putting words in other players’ mouths. We’re talking about a game that’s still in the regular season with big games to come.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.